Sources report that overcrowding at Border Patrol facilities increases daily. At one Border Patrol Sector in Arizona, Tuesday’s detention figures show 500% occupancy over the COVID-19 adjusted capacity. According to sources, the detention capacity recommendations are made to provide the safest environment for front-line agents and migrants during the pandemic.
Until recently, most migrants entering the United States illegally were swiftly returned to Mexico under a CDC emergency order. Many migrants, including family units and unaccompanied children (UACs), were returned within two hours of crossing. The Biden Administration is watering down the application of the CDC order, resulting in the reported overcrowding.
Under the Biden Administration, detention times are stretching particularly for families with young children, unaccompanied minors, and pregnant females. A surge in arrests of unaccompanied minors has created an untenable situation for the Border Patrol and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Sources report as of Tuesday there were more than 6,700 migrants in Border Patrol custody across the United States. Slightly more than 50% of those detained are unaccompanied children. As HHS struggles to find suitable shelter for the UACs, the Border Patrol has made attempts to alleviate the overcrowding by busing UACs from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas to other border communities with available bed space.
Sources in El Paso, Texas, report that 80% of all migrants detained are UACs. The running daily average for UAC arrests nationally exceeds 400.
At the current pace, the Border Patrol may see an additional 9,000 UACs illegally cross before April 1. In the remaining months of Fiscal Year 2021, another 70,000 UACs may cross–further complicating matters.
According to HHS statistics for 2018, the average cost to detain UACs overall was $1.8 billion. The average length of detention was just short of 57 days per child.
According to HHS, “Reunification with most parents is in the best interest of the child, but proper and careful vetting for child safety is essential.” This helps explains the purpose and length of detention, officials say.
“Some parents have been found unsuitable for reunification because of issues discovered during a criminal background check, including child cruelty, child smuggling, narcotics crimes, robbery convictions, and a warrant for murder,” according to HHS.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas Sector.